While the Tories obsess over Europe, ordinary people struggle

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Since the county council elections nearly two weeks ago and the supposed inexorable rise of UKIP, the Conservative Party has been occupied with an old enemy: Europe. The Queen’s Speech, much to the dismay of Tory backbenchers, contained nothing concerning a referendum on British membership of the European Union. Worried about the UKIP ‘threat’ to their seats, Tory MPs, including, unbelievably, cabinet ministers, have been falling over themselves to condemn the EU, call for a referendum and let David Cameron know just how strongly they feel about an issue that is, truthfully, way down the list of priorities for the vast majority of voters. Instead of showing leadership of his party, Cameron is performing his own tribute act to John Major and following it. Except whereas John Major tried to face down the ‘b*stards’ in his own party that sought to undermine him over Europe, Cameron acquiesces to their every demand and indulges their every whim.

A strong leader would not only attempt to assert some kind of control over his party, but also remind them that there are rather more important things at stake. The Queen’s Speech did nothing to help ordinary people who are struggling and nothing to improve our economic situation. U-turns on welfare reforms or tax cuts for the richest would have been welcome as people across the country struggle to make ends meet as a result of these damaging policies that have been implemented over the last month, yet they remain in place. There is still no coherent plan from the government for jobs and growth, more vital than ever as the rate of unemployment increased again today for the second month running, and at the current rate the government will not have eliminated the deficit for another 422 years. This is what the Tories should be agitating over – instead they are only concerned with going back to the 90s and fighting among themselves over Europe. Ed Miliband has rightly said that we should concentrate on the big issues facing people rather than argue over a referendum; Labour, once again, is fighting the corner of ordinary people while the Tories show just how out of touch they really are.

There are few places where the effects of the government’s harmful policies are being felt as much as they are in Birmingham. As the Birmingham Mail reported this week, nearly 2,000 Birmingham residents have requested access to emergency housing funds, an increase of 50% on the previous year, as the effects of the dreadful bedroom tax start to be felt across the city. While the City Council is able to provide some help, thanks to the government, there will still be a massive shortfall and many people suffering from the bedroom tax will not get the help they need. The Council has also secured extra Council Tax Support funding, reducing the burden on the unemployed and people on low incomes, yet this only mitigates the misery imposed by the Tory-led government. In difficult times, Labour is doing whatever it can locally to help those in need and try to build a better city and a better country, while the Tories play games with each other over Europe, ignoring the everyday issues that people face.

There is a debate to be had over Europe, and the EU has much to offer us as a city and as a country. When there are so many other important issues at hand, however, this is not the time for the Tories to be indulging in their favourite past-time of Euroscepticism. Ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. Birmingham residents will see a government that is not standing up  for them, not acting to improve their lives and not taking into account their fears and concerns, but a government that is distracted by UKIP and its own Eurosceptic backbenchers and is incapable of showing leadership. Labour is doing all it can to ensure a fair deal for Birmingham residents; the Tories appear as though they could not care less.

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